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Dole Wins in Iowa Caucus; Buchanan Places Second

By Robert Shogan
Los Angeles Times
DES MOINES, Iowa

Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., appeared to be winning Iowa's precinct caucuses Monday - the first major test in th Republican drive to to regain the White House - with conservative television commentator Patrick J. Buchanan closely following.

Based on partial returns and a survey of voters entering the state's 2,142 caucus sites, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander appeared set for third place, with millionaire magazine publisher Steve Forbes and Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, fighting for fourth.

The results were a sharp repudiation of Forbes, who spent more than $4 million here, as well as Gramm, who was once considered the principal threat to Dole in this state but hose support plummeted following his surprising defeat last week at the hands of Buchanan in caucuses in Louisiana - a state that only those two contested.

Rounding out the field were former State Department official Alan Keyes, the first black to seek the Republican presidential nomination, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif., and businessman Morry Taylor.

Far more was at stake in this contest than Iowa's meager 25 delegates - little more than 1 percent of the total of the 1,990 delegates who will congregate at the party's nominating convention in San Diego in August. Indeed, the votes at Monday's caucuses are only the first step in the state's complicated delegate-selection process, so that the eventual Iowa delegate lineup could depart notably from Monday's results.

The real prize here is that most precious f political commodities, momentum, the contagious aura generated by success, which the candidates who do well hope to use to fuel their efforts in the next critical test, the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday, and then on into the crowded weeks of March, in which 27 states will hold primaries and caucuses.

As he stumped in Des Moines Monday, Dole joked about the subjective interpretations put on election results. "I'd like to leave for the locker room at halftime with a lead - with a big lead, with a convincing lead," Dole said, then added, "or at least a win."

As behooves the front-runner, Dole sought to appear above the intra-party squabbling and to call attention instead to this fall's battle against President Clinton, who visited the state over the weekend and who has no serious opposition for the Democratic nomination.

"President Clinton said in his State of the Union speech, the era of big government was over," Dole told a group of office workers in Des Moines. "And tonight will be the beginning of the end of the era of President Clinton."

Dole emphasized his usual themes of experience and leadership, and poked fun at Forbes, blaming him for the negative tone of much of the campaign with his self-financed negative television and radio ads.

"We call him the Green candidate - he has a lot of it," Dole said. "I don't think Mother Teresa can withstand the assault I've had in Iowa and New Hampshire."

For his part, Forbes in a series of election morning radio broadcasts aimed at city commuters and farm workers driving log distances to jobs, mixed arguments for the flat tax with complaints that h had become the target of class-war attacks from his rivals.

"They've attacked me personally using the kind of language you expect from liberal Democrats," he said on a radio talk show.

Forbes' phone-bank operation made more than 20,000 calls Monday to prod supporters to attend their neighborhood caucus gatherings - 2,142 of which will be held in schools firehouses and public buildings across the state. And despite persistent doubts about Forbes' grass-rots support, campaign manager Bill Dal Col said Forbes' paid organization swelled Monday with the addition of more than 1,600 volunteers.

Buchanan cheered by polling evidence that his candidacy was on the upswing, spent the hours before the vote doing back-to-back radio interviews, 26 in all, urging Iowans to head to the caucuses and pushing his message of conservative values and economic nationalism.

Buchanan sought to rebut arguments that he s too divisive a figure to unite the party and defeat Clinton in the fall. He argued, he is more electable than his rivals because he, alone among the contenders, could get the votes of Ross Perot backers.